Meatcleaver Massacre

Meatcleaver Massacre poster

It was a crime with no apparent motive and scant evidence, making it difficult for the police to progress any thorough investigation, Professor Cantrell, a well-liked lecturer in cultural anthropology and expert in the occult at Valley College in Encino, California, bludgeoned in his home and not expected to awaken from his coma, his wife and two children, Tina and Roddy, murdered, the only clue a triangular scrap of material, a patch of some kind perhaps torn from a jacket, possibly indicating a gang affiliation.

In fact, the perpetrators were four of his students, Sean Allen, Dirk Kramer, Phil Jones and the ringleader Mason Harrue, not malicious but simply bored, believing they were simply going along to play a prank until the sociopathic Harrue went beyond what had been suggested, the others already complicit and obliged to follow suit in order to avoid witnesses who could identify them, but in his hospital bed Cantrell’s mind is still active, calling out an ancient chant to summon the avenging demon Morak.

Meatcleaver Massacre; Professor Cantrell (James Habif), in his hospital bed.

Shot in 1974 and originally released in late 1976 as Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre, the following year it was re-edited as Meatcleaver Massacre with a bookending narration provided by Christopher Lee, at the time unaware of his involvement as the footage of his scholarly discussion of matters of the soul, shamans and witch doctors had been shot for an entirely different but incomplete project then purchased by the producer as a selling point without the knowledge or consent of the ostensible “star” of the film.

The themes fortuitously tying with Professor Cantrell’s own lecture on the ancient Celtic deity known as the “destroyer of destroyers,” once invoked the unseen Morak undertakes the bloody vengeance upon the quartet of assailants played by Robert Clark, Doug Senior, Bob Mead and Larry Justin which the unconscious Professor Cantrell (James Habif) is unable to mediate himself, the bungling police far behind in their inept investigation.

Meatcleaver Massacre; the depiction of the demon Morak and its handiwork.

Directed by Keith Burns under the pseudonym Evan Lee, Meatcleaver Massacre featuring no meatcleavers nor a massacre and more suitably titled Evil Force for its home video release, it is a supernatural revenge film which attempts to tap into the same hangover of the disillusioned American dream of the mid-seventies as The Crazies and Race with the Devil but is hampered by the weak script and performances, J Arthur Craig’s slovenly Detective Frank Wexler seeming more suited to running a fast food outlet than police work, carrying evidence with him in his pocket and leaving fingerprints as he goes.

The characters underwritten, the cast too old for their roles as students and the motivation for the killings unconvincing, while a few moments such as Allen’s nightmare prelude to his death and the flash images in the lead up to what is otherwise the dullest love scene ever committed to celluloid hint at possibility unfulfilled, crucially Morak itself is less of a presence even than the fire demon of Night of the Demon, but where those glimpses invoked dread and trepidation here the discretion is a blessing, the physical embodiment of the avenger finally revealed as a shambling mess which would have been better kept a mystery.

Meatcleaver Massacre is available on Shudder now

Meatcleaver Massacre; the final victim of Morak, Mason Harrue (Larry Justin), now claimed, its work is complete.



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